All Strength Training Core Challenge July

July Challenge: The Core Challenge

As easy as it is to write off “core training” as just another trendy way to get personal trainers to add another certification to their wall and a few extra letters on their business cards, it’s also not enough to treat core training as another name for abdominal training.  Also, while we often hear that big exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses are great for developing core strength (and they are), that only works if you know how to use your core muscles during those types of lifts.

For our purposes, we’re going to define “the core” as anything responsible for stabilizing the lower spine, the hips, and the pelvis.  More than just the visible abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, if you’re fancy), it also includes the external obliques, the transverse abdominis (the deep abdominals that you can’t see), your erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and the glutes – medius, minimus, and maximus.

Why Should You Do Core Training?

The primary benefits we’re going to be aiming for during the Core Challenge are going to be:

  • Improved breathing patterns, including better use of the diaphragm
  • Better posture
  • Reduction in back and hip pain or discomfort
  • Stronger glutes and abdominals
  • Better integration of the core into larger lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses

What Is the Core Challenge?

The Core Challenge involves training these muscles 6 days per week, with one full day of rest, using short workouts and steady progressions.  Instead of doing longer workouts less often, training muscles that you struggle to use well allows you to practice more often and retain the patterns better, no differently than practicing a golf swing, playing an instrument, or learning a new language.

Want to get started? Download the Core Challenge program here.

You can find the video demonstrations for each movement on our YouTube page on our Core Challenge playlist.  Videos will be added one week at a time.

 

 

excessive training

Trainers: Stop Killing Your Client

There is a trend in the personal training industry right now where workouts are simply competitions to see who can tolerate the most punishment, whether it serves a purpose or not (other than bragging rights).

I was recently at a commercial gym with a friend and we decided to take a heated yoga class with incorporated cardio – we were intrigued and both have a good fitness capacity, so we figured “Why not?” About halfway into the class, the instructor had us doing some crazy plyometric something or other for 48 rounds . . . yes, 48. Even the instructor couldn’t do all of the rounds. When did it become normal, or okay, to create a workout so challenging that no one could complete it (okay, maybe not no one – I am sure there are those anomalies). It got me thinking, what does this actually accomplish? I get it though. If you cannot complete the workout as prescribed, then you must suck and therefore come back next week and the next week until you get it – makes sense considering they are trying to make money off of your misfortune.

There is yet another problem with running clients into the ground. Let’s use the example of this class again. We were doing plyometric cycling split squats (don’t bother searching YouTube for it… I’m pretty sure it was named by drawing a series of adjectives out of a hat) combined with jump squats. If I, someone who is athletic, had trouble completing these, how about someone who is overweight and still building up their fitness level? Now, we have not only the feeling of failure, but also the likelihood that they will hurt themselves by performing movements that their joints are not (and do not need to be) accustomed to. Where is the regression? Where is creating an environment that utilizes effective movements while preventing injury? Trust me – that room was heated to 95 degrees – we didn’t need to do all of the crazy stuff to break a sweat.

People are brainwashed to think “No pain, no gain” and that you have to be literally on the verge of death in order to have a “good workout”. These philosophies couldn’t be further from the truth. You CAN have an effective workout and live to tell about it. You CAN walk out of the gym and feel good about what you accomplished, and you CAN continue to progress towards realistic goals. The thing of it is . . . you CAN. Stop subjecting yourself to workouts that the instructor cannot even complete, set yourself up for success.

At All Strength Training, we design workouts to be efficient and effective. Key word – Effective: successful in producing a desired or intended result. If your intended results was to fall on your face and feel like a failure – congratulations, you did it! If your desired result is to make progress with your physique, get stronger for the gym and life, and feel awesome about training session, then your approach should be different.

Train smart. Don’t underestimate recovery. Fuel your body. Relish in your Results.

Overhead Press

Optimizing Shoulder Training

 

Many people want well-developed shoulders, but few know how to train them appropriately. Whether you’re male or female, developing the complete deltoid aids in creating an aesthetic, tapered torso, especially when combined with a low-enough bodyfat to make the waist look proportionately tiny in relation to the shoulder girdle.

As  relatively slow-twitch muscle group, the shoulders require a relatively high amount of volume.  And due to their placement on the torso, it is very easy to let other muscle groups, such as the triceps, traps, and upper back muscles, rob the shoulders of any stimulation during training.  Not only must your programming skills be up to par, but so should your execution.

Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes people make in the gym and what we can do to fix them.

#1 – Poor Execution

The deltoid is made up of three heads (anterior, lateral and posterior) and is responsible for abducting the humerus (moving the arm away from the body) as well as flexing the shoulder (as in an overhead press).  The posterior or rear delts also are one of the main movers in reaching extension while the upper arm is abducted (as in a rear lateral raise).

What this basically means is that the shoulder’s job is to move the arm away from the body in just about all movement patterns.  While this might seem obvious, one of the biggest technical flaws I see in people performing shoulder movements are that they begin to focus on simply lifting the weight as high as possible, rather than on getting the weight as far away from the deltoid and shoulder joint as possible.

How can we correct this?  In single joint movements such as raises in various directions, the goal should be to think about extension of the weight, rather than elevation.  For example, when performing a lateral raise, the goal is not to simply lift the weight up to a certain height (such as in line with the shoulders), but rather to think about trying to reach the weights as far out to the side as possible so that the distance between the weight and the delt being trained is as great as possible.

In other words, I will typically cue a client to think about reaching the dumbbells toward opposite walls, rather than focusing on elevating the dumbbells to shoulder height.

In addition, rotating the humerus internally or externally can alter which portion of the deltoid is preferentially recruited.  Essentially, out of the three major heads of the deltoid, whichever one sits highest during the exercise being performed will be the one that gets stimulated the most.

An example of this would be someone performing a lateral raise with their upper arm externally rotated (elbow pointing toward the floor, thumbs up in the air).  Even though the lateral raise is conventionally a side delt exercise, this position sits the anterior delt substantially higher than the lateral delt, which means it will experience the biggest pull from gravity and will then get the most work.

For visual demonstrations, watch this video:

#2 – Poor Programming

Once you have the execution side of things down, you’re already at a point where your odds of improving your shoulder development have gone up significantly.  The next step in the puzzle is how to put it together into your weekly training program.

Although there are certain lifters who have achieved phenomenal shoulder development with nothing but overhead pressing variations and little isolation work, for the vast majority of clients that we see, direct work should be a bigger focus.  Overhead presses such as military presses, push presses and dumbbell presses need to be included for their sheer bang for your buck value as well as their effect on strengthening the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder, but a variety of raises and other more direct work should be included as presses alone have to share the stress with the triceps, traps and to a degree even the upper chest.

What this means for a lot of people is an incredible amount of volume.  Supersets, giant sets, drop sets, rest pause techniques – these things all allow for a much greater amount of volume without turning your workout into a 2-hour marathon.  Weekly frequency can also often be increased to two, potentially even three workouts per week, although that may mean that you have to reduce volume on muscles that rely on the shoulders as secondary movers (such as chest presses of any kind as well as most upper back exercises).  Don’t worry – your chest won’t shrivel up because you spent a few weeks using more flyes and less bench presses.

My personal favorite technique for the shoulders is the giant set – at least 3 exercises (if not more) all performed in rapid succession for the same muscle groups.

What I have found to be most effective is to place overhead presses near the end of a giant set, once the various heads of the deltoids have begun to fatigue, so that the triceps and traps (or even the more commonly overdeveloped anterior head of the delt) don’t fatigue first.  It might look something like this:

A1) Isolation exercise for the posterior delt
A2) Isolation or compound exercise with a great amount of posterior and/or lateral head recruitment
A3) Overhead press variation

One of my favorite tri-sets is the following:

A1) Gironda lateral swings – blending abduction on one arm in a conventional lateral raise, with a little bit of abduction and transverse extension on the other arm to hit both the lateral and posterior heads

A2) Wide grip upright row – unlike a conventional, close-grip upright row, a wider grip allows for a wider elbow position and a slightly reduced potential for range of motion, increasing stress on the lateral delts and reducing the involvement of the traps (if performed correctly, obviously.

A3) Wide grip standing military press – the wide grip forces more abduction as well as significantly more external rotation of the shoulder, reducing the contribution from the anterior delt.  If flexibility is ideal, this could even be performed behind-the-heck to increase posterior delt recruitment.  The weight also ends up being significantly lighter when placed at the end instead of the beginning of the circuit, reducing joint stress and limiting weak links in the triceps and traps.

See it in action here:

You’ll soon find that by working these adjustments into your program, your shoulders will experience growth that they haven’t seen in quite a while.  Just make sure you take a shower beforehand or get a good hat, because you may not be able to get your arm to your head for a few days.

Are You the Person I’m Looking For?

This went out to all of our newsletter subscribers and clients a few days ago, and now I’m opening it up to all of our social media readers. I am writing this because I have something special to share. If you’re reading this, I think it COULD apply to you. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but I would rather let you make that decision instead of me, as I have been wrong more than once. As some of you may or may not know, I recently began competing in Physique competitions (which I have been thoroughly enjoying, by the way). But this isn’t about me. 52544-zach-trowbridge-11_final It IS about the fact that I am looking for TWO people with similar interests. I am looking to take two people to the stage within the next 12 months. Why? Because it isn’t enough for me to do it myself – if I can’t reproduce the results then it doesn’t really help me continue to grow even more as a coach. So, who am I looking for? I am looking for one client to work with one on one with me personally, as a private client, 4 days per week, for an hour at a time. This person, male or female, should be highly motivated to get into more than just good shape – they need to want something more. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re already a client at All Strength Training or not – it’s open to anybody! I am also looking for one person to work with remotely. This person probably won’t live close enough to train with me one on one, but you’ll get the next best thing. Customized nutrition, programming, and weekly Skype consult, and more. Now, the good part. I am not going into this with a particular set cost in mind. I would rather have the right people who will do what’s needed, rather than just those with the most disposable income. So I’m not putting a price tag on it yet – if you’re the person for the job, we can work that out later. 12 week transformation So what do I get out of it? 1. Promotion. Yes, I will use you to promote our services. On our website, through social media, in print, etc. Consider it a trade for offering this at well below what I would typically charge. 2. Data. You’re a beta tester for all of my nutrition, training, and supplementation protocols. So we will keep lots of records together, you and I. Workouts, pictures, measurements, consistently and regularly. How Do You Apply? Reply to this e-mail or send an e-mail to me personally at Zach@allstrengthtraining.com. In about 500 words (a few paragraphs), describe what you want from me. How you want to look, what competition you would like to do, who you would like to look like, and tell me why I should pick you. Please, also specify if you want to be considered for one on one or remote training. Lastly, tell me what inspires you. People, places, activities, anything. I want to know what drives you to be a better person and motivates you to get out of bed each day. If you read this and think this isn’t for you, I understand. Not everyone wants or needs to go to the level I’m asking for this project. I would ask, however, that if you know someone who fits the bill, that you share this with them so that they might have the opportunity to be considered. Until Next Time, Zach Trowbridge

3 Warmup Templates for Optimizing Performance

As the temperatures (at least here in Chicago) are dipping consistently below freezing every night, it’s time to start putting a little more thought into your warmups than during the hot and sweaty summer months. No longer can you get away with 30 seconds of jumping rope, a couple of high knees, and be off to the races – not unless you would like to help contribute to your chiropractor or orthopedist’s next BMW purchase.

However, as usual, we understand that time is at a premium, and that some of the more drawn-out warmups out there may not be feasible, or even necessary.

What follows are three different warmup templates based on the most common training goals that we work with – fat loss, muscle gain, and strength.

Fat Loss

There are a few things we know about most effective fat loss programs – rest periods tend to be limited, the movements tend to be big, compound lifts that work a lot of muscles at once, and setting personal records on weight lifted is not a primary aim (or at least, it shouldn’t be).

With that in mind, a good warmup should prepare you for an elevated heart rate and warm up all of the major muscle groups and joints, since many fat loss programs use full body workouts each day (or at the very least, varying combinations of upper and lower body exercises).  We’re going to want to include the following three components:

  • two dynamic stretching movements to raise the heart rate (one for the shoulder girdle and one for the hips)
  • some soft tissue work on chronically tight or stiff muscle groups
  • one or two bodyweight strength exercises to prepare the joints and muscles for training

Here’s an example:

Dynamic Stretching

A1.  Shoulder dislocates with PVC pipe or a band – 10-12 reps

A2. Leg swings, forward/back and side-to-side – 10-12 reps each way

Soft Tissue

B1. Piriformis with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

B2. IT band with foam roller – 30 seconds each side

B3. Upper pecs with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

 

Strength Warmup

C1. Bodyweight squat – 20 reps, 2010 tempo (2 seconds down, no pause, one second up, no pause)

C2. Medicine ball slam – 10 reps, X0X0 tempo (fast movements)

Estimated completion time – 8 minutes

Muscle Gain

Training for muscle gain, also called hypertrophy training, typically requires more of a focus on training individual muscle groups with more sets per workout, usually resulting in splitting the body up over multiple workouts.  Therefore, the warmups put more emphasis on preparing individual muscles for a higher workload.

An example for a chest & back workout:

Dynamic Stretching

A1.  Shoulder dislocates with PVC pipe or a band – 10-12 reps

A2. Medicine ball slam – 15-20 reps

Soft Tissue

B1. Lats/upper back with foam roller – 30 seconds each side

B2. Rotator cuff with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

B3. Upper pecs with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

Strength Warmup

C1. Shoulder width pushup or flat dumbbell press – 2 sets of 10 with 50% of max weight, 4010 tempo

C2. Dumbbell pullover – 20 sets of 10 with 50% of max weight, 3210 tempo

Estimated completion time – 12 minutes

Strength

Strength workouts typically involve fewer reps per set, with longer rest intervals and a higher percentage of intensity than other types of training.  The dynamic components and soft tissue work are similar to the other two templates, but the strength warmup works a little differently.  Also, rather than being split into bodyparts, workouts are usually grouped based on movements, with some variation of either the three power lifts (bench press, squat, or deadlift) or a variation of an Olympic lift (clean & jerk, snatch) as the primary focus for the session.

Along with dynamic and soft tissue movements, the strength warmup typically involves multiple low-rep sets of the first one or two movements being trained that session.  For example, on a day devoted to the bench press, the warmup might look like this:

Dynamic Stretching

A1.  Shoulder dislocates with PVC pipe or a band – 10-12 reps

A2. Medicine ball slam – 15-20 reps

Soft Tissue

B1. Lats/upper back with foam roller – 30 seconds each side

B2. Rotator cuff with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

B3. Upper pecs with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

Strength Warmup

C1. Close-grip barbell bench press (lifter’s current max is 250lbs) – 95×5, 115×3, 135×3, 155×1, 4010 tempo

C2. Close-grip weighted chinup (lifter’s current max is 100lbs) – bodyweight x5, 25×3, 40×3, 50×1, 4010 tempo

Estimated completion time – 15 minutes

Get Stronger with Advanced Pushup Variations

For those who are limited on equipment, one of the biggest problems with an exercise like the pushup is that it’s very easy to outgrow its usefulness – you’ll see lots of growth and muscle development by going from being unable to perform one full pushup to doing 15, or maybe even 20, but beyond that, it becomes more of a test of endurance, and in the long run excessively high pushup reps could even reduce your strength on exercises such as barbell or dumbbell presses (short explanation: muscle fibers turn more slow-twitch and are less efficient at producing lots of power).  If all I have is a floor, what should I do then?

Getting Creative with Progressions

The pushup, like any exercise, can be made harder or easier by changing angles and leverages.  Keep your knees on the ground, and the exercise becomes easier.  Move your hands in closer and keep the elbows a little tighter, and the range of motion gets longer and it becomes harder.  With that premise in mind, here are four of my favorite twists on the pushup (plus one bonus exercise that’s just a little bit different but is quite an impressive feat when done properly.

#1. Suspended Pushups

The premise behind the suspended pushup is twofold – 1) the range of motion becomes longer because your chest can now drop below your hands (similar to using pushup handles), and the dynamic movement of the handles creates instability in the shoulder girdle and the core.  These can be done with gymnastics rings, Blast Straps, TRX bands, chains suspended from a pullup bar, whatever you have access to.  Setup is pretty easy – just set the straps so you’re as close to the floor as your strength permits.

#2. Pushup Plus

These are great for somebody with bum shoulders or pain during conventional pressing exercises such as the bench press. The extra movement in the scapulae creates more stability throughout the shoulder girdle and strengthens a lot of the smaller muscles that serve to keep you injury-free.

#3. Pseudo Planche Pushup

Now we’re starting to get into more advanced pushups that have roots in gymnastics training. The planche is more or less one of the best examples of how to get a lot of strength and power development out of a bodyweight exercise – ultimately it’s intended to be done with the feet in the air using only your hands as a base of support. This is a more stripped-down version that I was introduced to through my coach Luke Leaman. While it looks a lot like a regular pushup, in the bottom position the hands should be as close to the hips as possible, keeping the lats and upper back contracted and the elbows held close to the sides.

#4. Pseudo Maltese Pushup

Even harder than the pseudo planche pushup is the pseudo Maltese pushup. The hands are rotated so that the fingertips point down toward the feet, and the hands are placed at about 45 degrees out from the hips.

#5. BONUS EXERCISE: Russian Dips

While technically not a pushup variation, it is extremely badass to perform and is a step up from regular dips, which are also typically used as a major bodyweight movement in a limited-equipment program. As a warning, you definitely need to have healthy shoulders to do this one.

10 Mass Building Tips for Hardgainers

#1.  Get lean first.

It’s much easier to do the things you need to do to gain muscle when your bodyfat is low.  For example, carbs are protein-sparing, meaning they serve the function of providing energy to the body so that protein can be directed toward muscle growth and repair.  However, if your bodyfat percentage is high, you’re likely more insulin resistant, which means those additional carbs will be turned to bodyfat.

It’s not necessary to be stage-ready 365 days a year, but trying to maintain near single digits is a good idea.

#2.  Use BCAA’s during your workout.

The first month I added 20-30 grams of BCAA’s during each training session, I gained 6lbs of lean mass.  Clients that I’ve worked with rave about diminished recovery time and being able to get a few extra reps out of each workout.

Branched chain amino acids, made of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are essential amino acids and have a preference toward being used for muscle growth, and have been shown to increase protein synthesis and raise insulin sensitivity.  In clinical settings, they have also been used to treat severe burns as well as side effects from liver failure.

Males should use at least 20 grams per workout, and females should use at least 10.  I recommend using capsules instead of powder as the taste of the powder tends to be awful, so some companies add artificial sweeteners or sugars to mask the taste.

#3.  Keep a food journal.

While I’m not a fan of lifelong food tracking, food logs are good for one thing: perspective.  It’s easy to think you’re eating a lot of food, but handing over your journal to somebody who’s skilled in nutrition for hypertrophy can expose a lot of holes in your habits.  Pick 1 or 2 habits to fix at a time, and continue to log so that you can see (or not see) improvement.  Once the changes become more or less permanent, then a journal may not be as necessary.  Or, if you’re tech-savvy, take a picture of everything you eat and drink for a week and have a qualified coach review it with you.

#4.  Keep a training log.

This goes with point #3, but I would consider it even more important.  I’ve worked with some guys who claim to train extremely hard, but when asked about details in their program, they often can’t remember something as simple as the exercises in their prior training session.

Keep a detailed log with the exercises, number of sets, reps, exercise tempo, and rest periods, as well as the time of day of your session and any relevant notes (illness, muscle stiffness, joint pain, etc.)

#5.  Take care of your fascia.

In recent years there has been speculation that one of the limiting factors in a muscle’s ability to grow is the quality of the soft tissue, or fascia, surrounding it.  When there are adhesions or scar tissue in the muscle fibers, it limits the muscle’s ability to grow “out”.  Getting treatment in the form of deep tissue massage or Active Release Technique can be extremely beneficial, as can performing self-myofascial release techniques such as foam rolling or lacrosse ball rolling.

IT band foam rolling

In addition, a new line of topical products from Zanagen are gaining popularity both in their ability to aid in muscle growth as well as relieving delayed onset muscle soreness, allowing a greater training frequency, which could lead to better gains.

#6.  Ditch the muscle magazines.

While I’m familiar with the feeling of flipping through the pages of Flex Magazine or MuscleMag International and aspiring to the physiques of some of the pros, there are several dangers to getting the majority of your training advice from those types of publications.

First, the majority of pro bodybuilders are very genetically gifted.  Sometimes you can see from very early on pictures that they carry muscle very naturally, and in some cases it’s simply a “just add water” situation – while they never were very impressive without training, as soon as they hit the gym with some level of seriousness the gains come relatively easily.  If you’re a hardgainer, that’s likely not you.  Even if you’re seriously underweight, your first year of training you may have only put on 10-12lbs, whereas some pros describe their first years adding 30, 40, or 50lbs within the first 12 months.

Second, assuming that the programs are actually used by the competitors you see (many times the workouts are just ghost-written), you have to remember that those programs are written by genetically gifted, pharmaceutically enhanced individuals who can get away with training their arms for an hour and a half at a time, once a week.  The average lifter will likely overtrain in volume, and undertrain in frequency.

Mr. Olympia Phil Heath, who is not a hardgainer.

Instead, look into hypertrophy programs from coaches who work with lots of “average” lifters, including Nick Mitchell, John Meadows, Shelby Starnes, Charles Poliquin, and Christian Thibadeau.  9 times out of 10, it will look nothing like the newsstand magazines.

#7.  Get enough sleep.

When you sleep, you release growth hormone.  Many so-called hardgainers are also the same people who will stay up until 2 or 3am all weekend long and then drag themselves out of bed at 5am on Monday, slam down enough caffeine to make a bull stop blinking, and wonder why they can’t grow.

Shoot for 7-9 hours of sound sleep every night.  Keep your room pitch black, don’t fall asleep watching TV, and take magnesium at night if you can’t get to sleep early enough (aim to be in bed by 11pm at the latest, ideally even before 10pm).

#8.  Train twice a day (sometimes).

If you’re in a hurry to put on some muscle, and your nutrition is already sound, then the limiting factor may be the amount of training you’re doing.  When carefully planned (and reduced appropriately when needed), training two or even three times a day can help speed up muscle growth.  For more on higher-frequency training, search out writings from Charles Poliquin and Nick Mitchell.  Keep in mind, it’s not for everybody, and your nutrition, supplementation and recovery have to be spot-on to avoid overtraining.

#9.  Take some time off.

While this may seem contradictory to #8, it’s actually just a different side of the same coin.  Training needs to be periodized, meaning there are times when lots of training is appropriate, and there are times where you’re better off focusing on rest and recovery.  If you’ve been training 2 hours a day for 3 years, and your joints are beginning to ache, your sleep patterns are terrible, and you become highly irritable, consider either switching to a low-volume, low-frequency deloading program for a couple of weeks, or just outright stay out of the gym and rest up.  You’ll come back stronger and more enthusiastic to lift than before.

#10.  Get help.

If all else fails, hire a qualified strength coach or personal trainer who has a history of getting results with his or her clients.  Ask for testimonials, look at before-and-after pictures, and do your homework.  Above all else, if your prospective coach or trainer is making promises that sound too good to be true, they probably are.

3 Deadlift Variations for MMA Fighters

With the increase in popularity of the UFC inevitably comes a flood of information from various strength coaches, trainers and other fitness professionals about “sport-specific” training for mixed martial arts competition. While there are a handful of trainers who advocate a variety of circus-like “functional” lifts, including everything from swinging chains around while standing on a stability ball (yes, this is actually a thing people do) to performing strength exercises in combat gear and altitude masks (again, yes, people do this for real), most intelligent coaches and trainers have taken basic staples of strength and tweaked them to meet the needs of a different sport.

While there will be some disagreement, it’s commonly accepted that one of the best exercises to increase MMA potential is the deadlift. There is not a fighter on the planet who can’t benefit from a stronger posterior chain (low back, glutes, and hamstrings), a better grip, and more power in the entire body. And for a lot of the offseason, the standard deadlift gets the job done. But there are a few variations that can be incorporated into your fight preparation that work either as a main lift or as an accessory lift.

The Single-Leg Deadlift

For sheer glute recruitment, the single-leg deadlift is probably the best exercise out there. It also works well for people who tend to dominate conventional deadlifts with their lower back – since you’re still using all of your lumbar muscles but only half of your glutes and hamstrings, your lower back isn’t moving enough weight to get fatigued easily.

The Zercher Deadlift

The bar position and the wide stance mimics a double-leg takedown. If you can move 300-400lbs for a few reps here you’ll have a lot less trouble taking down an angry 200-lb man who’s trying to beat you in the head.

Band-Resisted Deadlift

I like these because they force you to be fast. You’re less likely to use maximum weights, but with a healthy amount of band tension on the bar, your grip, upper back and traps will get a ton of overload because the band is going to try to yank the bar back to the floor at lockout.

There are a couple of setup options here. The first is with a single JumpStretch or EliteFTS band (light and average bands work the best for this, use more than one if necessary):

The second option is to use a couple of EliteFTS short bands, which are a little easier to set up correctly. The mini, monster mini, and light bands are the best options here, and make sure to choke the bands over the smooth part of the bar, as the knurling can tear up the bands over time:

Common Misuses of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release (SMR) if you’re fancy, is widely accepted as a useful tool for correcting postural dysfunction and alleviating muscle soreness and stiffness.  However, just like anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to apply it.  Here are some of the more common mistakes that I see when it comes to soft tissue work, and how to fix it:

Working in a Haphazard Order

Particularly when used for corrective exercise and treating posture dysfunction, there are specific patterns you should follow when foam rolling.  Instead of just jumping around to whatever feels the tightest,follow steps to ensure that as you release tension in one area, it preemptively releases tension in other areas along what are called the myofascial lines.  here are a few simple guidelines to follow to get the most out of the least amount of time:

  1. Always, always start with the feet (plantar fascia) first.
  2. Work from the pelvis outward.  If you need to release tension in my calves and my glutes, start with the glutes and work toward the calves.  If it’s the lower back and the traps, start with the lower back and work along the vertebrae of the spine until you arrive at the traps.

Rolling Stiff and Lengthened Muscles, Not Tight and Short Ones

Here is the best example of this scenario – somebody will walk into the gym, grab a lacrosse ball or foam roller, and start attacking the area between the shoulder blades.  Why?  Because the area feels stiff and sore.  Logically, this would make sense; however, in application all it does is make the problem worse.  Here is why.

In corrective exercise, there are typically two types of muscles, usually situated opposite each other.  There are muscles that are loose and lengthened (and often weak, but not necessarily), and muscles that are tight and short (usually stronger than their loose and lengthened counterparts, but again, not necessarily).

If you look at your typical desk jockey, you will usually see rounded shoulders, a hunched upper back, and a forward head tilt.  This usually results in tight and short anterior delts, pecs, and traps, with loose and long scapular retractors (rhomboids, teres major and minor, posterior delts).  If all I roll is the upper back complex, all that serves to do is release even more tension, which makes the muscles even looser and longer, and allows the opposing muscle groups to get tighter and shorter.  A better approach would be to open up the chest and shoulders with soft tissue work first, and then briefly work the upper back to increase blood flow.

Ignoring Trigger Points

The point of foam rolling is to find the areas that create the most discomfort, and apply generous amounts of pressure until the scar tissue that has built up in that area begins to break up and release muscular tension.  However, human instinct is to run away from the pain, so what normally happens is that if I spend 2 minutes rolling my IT band, I’ll spend 1:45 rolling the areas that aren’t too awful, and just sort of pay passive attention to the intense pain that comes from the areas that are in need of the most attention.

Instead, pay attention to the two or three areas in each muscle that create the most tension – especially the ones that cause any sort of radiating tension in other muscle groups.  There are your trigger points for that area.  Spend most of your time here and don’t worry about the rest.

Soft tissue work has a plethora of benefits to everybody from word class athletes to busy executives to the senior citizen who is just trying to maintain mobility, but it only works when it’s applied correctly.  Take these three tips and make the appropriate adjustments to get the most out of the least amount of time.